When I was a little girl, I lived in San Diego. To me, it was more than a place — it was a world. It was a feeling of security, a way of life I loved. Even as a child, I felt that these wide beaches, cool breezes, and endless sunkist days were somehow my birthright. I felt anchored here. It was home, the only one I remembered, although I’d been born miles and a world away, in winter. For my parents, it must have been different. They spent a difficult four years here in a one bedroom apartment on USCD campus with three little children on a medical student’s nonexistent income, seeing each other only between classes, labs, and grueling exams. And I suppose we left too early for the younger ones to really remember life in San Diego. But the image of this place was already stamped indelibly on my heart, as the standard against which all other places were measured and found wanting. I never got over leaving here. Nowhere else could ever seem quite like home. The place remained sparkling pristinely in my mind, synonymous with the idyllic land of childhood.
I can remember perfectly the day I saw a picture of the newly built San Diego Mormon Temple in a newspaper clipping on the church bulletin board. The article was titled “Rockets to Heaven.” I was thirteen. I remembered then when I was a little girl, driving by an empty plot of ground in San Diego where my parents told me the temple would someday be built. It became for me a symbol of my private fairyland — the enchanted catle at the end of every story. I put a picture of it up in my bedroom. When my art tutor was teaching me woodcutting, I made prints of the San Diego Temple on the loveliest lacy white paper I could find. Happily ever after for me was attached to that place. When I thought about it, I didn’t know quite what to make of my strange obsession. After all, nobody I knew seemed attached to a particular place the way I felt drawn to San Diego. They moved around, following their jobs, or settled wherever they happened to be, and they seemed contented there.
It wasn’t till I travelled to the Middle East that I understood. People there don’t possess land — they are possessed by it. Their homeland holds onto them for decades, generations, millenia. They’re willing to die defending a plot of ground they’ve never even seen. Home, to them, is more than just where they live. It’s a house whose key they’ve treasured as they’ve wandered in the wilderness for forty years. It’s the sunset over a certain wall, or glinting off a minaret. It’s a garden with trees so old they’ve seen it passed down for twenty generations. It’s a little hill where something happened two thousand years ago.
My latent sense of place re-awoke in me. When my prince charming came along a little later, he very intelligently took me away to the castle I’d dreamed of as a girl. We were married in the San Diego Temple and honeymooned on the beach down the road. To me, it was the most romantic and beautiful place in the world. That’s why I like this picture of me in my wedding gown on the beach. It’s like a confirmation — photographic proof that fairytales come true. Two years later, we finally moved here for good. When I die and find myself in Heaven, I expect to feel a similar sense of pleasant, unexpected familiarity, of inexplicable settledness; of finally being home. Till then, I’m living in San Diego.